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Dalai Lama, in L.A., reports growing support for Tibet among Chinese intellectuals

February 20, 2010 |  7:43 pm

After pressing the case for Tibetan autonomy with President Obama in Washington, the Dalai Lama said Saturday that he is encouraged by what he sees as rising support for the Tibetan cause among Chinese intellectuals, although he said the Chinese government remains "hardened" against him.

The spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism arrived in Los Angeles on Friday and planned to spend the weekend here in support of Whole Child International, a nonprofit organization that works on behalf of orphaned and abandoned children. In an interview with The Times, he acknowledged that there had been no progress in the latest round of talks with China over his call for greater autonomy in Tibet.

Still, he said he found some reasons to cling to hope that the standoff could thaw. "The number of Chinese intellectuals and writers [coming] out, they openly support our middle way approach and [are] very critical of their own government policy," he said, speaking in English.

He said Chinese intellectuals had become more sympathetic to Tibet as a result of pro-autonomy demonstrations in 2008 that prompted a swift, violent response from the Chinese authorities. Since then, he said, he has met many Chinese who say they were unaware of the Tibetan issue until the demonstrations. Now, he said, they find his call for a self-governing Tibet that remains a part of China to be "very sensible, very logical."

He said Chinese writers had published 800 articles in support of Tibetan autonomy, 300 of them published in China itself. Those figures could not be independently verified.

The 14th Dalai Lama was the administrative and spiritual leader of Tibet before going into exile in India in 1959 when China cemented control over the Himalayan region. China has claimed not only political authority in Tibet, which it considers to be an autonomous province, but also control over the leadership of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama presides over a government in exile in India.

Sitting cross-legged and barefoot in the presidential suite of a Beverly Hills hotel, the Dalai Lama briefly discussed his Thursday meeting with Obama. He downplayed his goals for the meeting and said he had met with the president because "it was my duty to inform or report what the situation was in the relationship with the Chinese government."

Asked if he saw any progress in that relationship, he said, "No progress. ... Always the Chinese authorities [are] very hardened. Not only [against] Tibetans, but also their policy toward their own people."

His Los Angeles visit included a luncheon speech Saturday, as well as a public address scheduled for Sunday at Gibson Amphitheatre, where he will be joined by musician Sheryl Crow.

-- Mitchell Landsberg

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